Armenia could play more important role in the region

Eduard Abrahamyan:

Armenia could play more important role in the region

PanARMENIAN.Net - Election of new Presidents in Armenian and Russia, upcoming presidential election in Azerbaijan and shift of leader in the White House will inevitably influence on foreign policy of many states. It's especially vivid in the South Caucasus. Armenia's relations with neighbors and world powers depend on the republic's foreign policy. Chairman of Mitq analytical center, historian Eduard Abrahamyan comments to PanARMENIAN.Net on his vision of the situation.
What should be the priorities of Armenia's foreign policy?

One of the priority tasks for Armenia's should be settlement of liberated territories in Nagorno Karabakh and support to NKR's foreign policy. The Armenian-Azeri so-called consultations produced no effect. With creation of the Kosovo precedent, official Yerevan should recognize both Kosovo and Nagorno Karabakh. With densely populated NKR, it will be possible to prevent a new war between Karabakh and Azerbaijan.

Another key task is cooperation with NATO and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which claims to become the major military-political bloc and a counterbalance to the Alliance. Besides, our neighbor Iran has already announced intention to join the SCO.

Yerevan's joining the Organization will open new horizons and possibilities to participate in global economic projects. Moreover, contrary to pro-western Azerbaijan, Armenia can become an alternative for many Asian gas exporters and act as transit country.

However, it doesn't mean that we should stand up against NATO. What we should do is to assess the situation and decide on the benefits we can gain from cooperating with the blocs.

Strengthening of ties with states which are not Armenia's military and strategic partners is also important. To be self-sufficient we should get rid of the complex of "a helpless nation" and develop viable projects for consolidation of Armenian state system in the South Caucasus.

How real is the end of Russia's presence in the South Caucasus?

Presently, the Russia is not deciding "to be or not to be" in the South Caucasus. Moscow has been trying to strengthen its influence in the region so far. The point is that Russia has two tools of pressure in Georgia and none in Azerbaijan. It's quite obvious that the Kremlin has for a long time Karabakh as a pressing factor. Now, due to Artsakh's complete isolation from Azerbaijan, the situation has changed.

Possibly, national tensions in north of Azerbaijan and Baku's aggressive policy toward Dagestani-speaking population can offer Moscow a chance for creating an alternative factor.
However, Russia's unawareness of mentality and capabilities of North Caucasus nations often resulted in paralyzing of ethnic problems. This problem may be viewed as omission by Armenia, which in the course of 15 years made no effort to convince Moscow of its determination to finally resolve the "Azeri issue". Today, in the light of the U.S.-Turkey tensions, some Russian forces speak out for stabilization of relations with Ankara.

What's Armenia's actual role in the region?

In my opinion, Armenia could play a more important role in the region, irrelative of the NKR issue or blockade imposed by Turkey. The role of our state is badly demanded over the lack of flexibility in the foreign policy. Armenia proves unable to suppress the growing anti-Armenian moods in Georgia. But as a matter of fact, our republic could be an unofficial guarantor of sustainable development of Armenian-inhabited Samtskhe Javakheti and strengthen Armenian economic and political influence on Ajaria via promoting political and territorial autonomization of Samtskhe Javakheti. It would force Georgia to consider Yerevan's opinion. Ajaria and Samtskhe Javakheti make the outlet toward to the Black Sea which is the solution to the problem of blockade.

Let's look how Baku pursues its policy in Kvemo Kartli, where plants and enterprises are established with the Azerbaijani capital. Furthermore, political consolidation of Azeri population in Georgia has started with formation of regional political bodies like the Azeri national assembly and the Party of Azerbaijanis of Georgia.

To avoid a calamity, the new leadership of Armenia should prevent Georgian assimilation and outflow of Armenians from Samtskhe Javakheti via direct investments in its economy and its transformation into a political entity.

Is normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations possible in the foreseeable future?

I wouldn't say. The fact is that Turkic solidarity is gaining weight. Turkey is not interested in independence and uncontrollable Armenia. During the soviet era, Ankara was trying to weaken Russia's influence and cement the Turkic bloc and Islamic fundamentalism.

As to Georgia, it has to put up with the economic expansion of Turkey, which under supervision of its Western allies keeps on developing various scenarios of so-called Turkish projects where Armenia is perceived as a temporal political entity, completely yielding to Azerbaijan.

However, despite political confrontation, I can't rule out official economic ties between the two states, especially because informal economic contacts has existed and developed since Armenia proclaimed independence

How do you assess Azerbaijan's policy toward Iran?

Azerbaijan is becoming a state which develops aims and objectives for strengthening its influence in entire Middle East. It has always pursued a balanced and cautious policy toward Iran. Exploiting the factor of Southern Azerbaijan, Baku is aspired to cause a split in the Iranian society, thus playing in Washington's hands, which views the situation as a good platform to be used against Tehran.

However, Baku also tries to cooperate with Iran in energy and commutation fields in order to isolate Armenia fro regional projects.

Can Baku manipulate energy sources?

Baku has always viewed the energy and communication resources as an extra political tool for gaining maximal political concessions from its economic companions. It specifically refers to the Karabakh issue and Azerbaijan's influence in the region. Nevertheless, many European states eye Azerbaijan as a country which supplies energy sources bypassing Russia and often satisfy its whims despite obvious unwillingness to do so. Presently, Azerbaijan is by all means trying to gain maximal benefits from Nabucco project which will offer a possibility to leave Armenia behind.